|An image of Jupiter taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope|
Brazilian amateur astronomer José Luis Pereira was shooting Jupiter on September 13 when an object struck the gas giant.
Pereira used a QHY5III462C camera with a Newtonian 275mm F5.3 telescope in São Caetano do Sul, São Paulo, Brazil when he captured the incredible event. It was a clear night, so he recorded 25 videos to put through a program called DeTeCt. The software is used to analyze video and detect impacts on Jupiter and Saturn.
The camera Pereira used records color at enhanced near-infrared wavelengths. It uses a 2MP Sony IMX462 CMOS image sensor. The camera records 1920 x 1080 video. Pereira used an IRUV cut filter when observing Jupiter and used a Televue Powermate 5x (F26.5) eyepiece. The QHY5III462C starts at $299 USD.
Light on at Jupiter! Anyone home? This bright impact flash was spotted yesterday on the giant planet by astronomer José Luis Pereira.
Not a lot of info on the impacting object yet but its likely to be large and/or fast!
— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) September 14, 2021
While impacts on Jupiter are not exceedingly rare, they’re far from common. Per Nature, Jupiter is hit ‘by as many as 65 meteorite impacts each year.’ For Pereira to have been in a clear nighttime location and witnessed one with his telescope is very fortunate. That said, he’s a dedicated observer, which certainly increases his odds of observing something incredible.
SpaceWeather.com—an excellent resource for monitoring aurora conditions, by the way—wrote about the collision on September 14. German astronomer Harald Paleske witnessed the impact, too. SpaceWeather writes ‘The most likely explanation is a small asteroid or comet striking the giant planet; an asteroid in the 100m size range would do the trick.’
Pereira told Space.com, ‘I am an assiduous planetary observer. When the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are in opposition, I try to make images in every possible night of clear skies. Especially [of] the planet Jupiter, my favorite.’ Of his video, Pereira said, ‘To my surprise, in the first video I noticed a different glow on the planet, but I didn’t pay much attention to it as I thought it might be something related to the parameters adopted, and I continued watching normally. So as not to stop the captures in progress for fear that weather conditions would worsen, I didn’t check the first video.’
Here is an image obtained by Rico and myself 1hr after the impact event. The site is clearly resolved and no visible scar was left (just as with previous impact flash events.) The object was probably too small to reach the deeper atmosphere. https://t.co/gQGewHR93U pic.twitter.com/IME2LLj3L1
— Damian Peach💙 (@peachastro) September 14, 2021
He fed the videos into DeTeCt and went to bed. It wasn’t until September 14 when he checked the software and saw that it had detected a likely collision. Pereira then sent his information to Marc Delcroix of the French Astronomical Society, and Delcroix confirmed that Pereira had recorded a collision that occurred on September 13 at 6:39 p.m. EDT. ‘For me it was a moment of great emotion, as I have been looking for a record of [such an] event for many years,’ Pereira wrote to Space.com.